When breaking ground on a new company, management experts and consultants always espouse mission, vision, and values—in that order—as the keys to a successful launch. But how is vision possible without strong values that motivate you and the people around you? Based on what I’ve seen, it’s far more important that your values are deep rooted convictions that energize and motivate your business. In order to start something with true impact, an entrepreneur must know how their values fit and shape the world around them. In a word, values create your vision, and not the other way around.
One thing we always believed in at SailPoint was supporting risk takers like us—scrappy people with a mind for business and a problem to solve. That’s why, at the start, we committed preliquidity equity to the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas. This organization and others like it around the country encourage early-stage companies to donate stock that will hopefully someday become a way to help society. If there’s a liquidity event— the company is sold, goes IPO, whatever it may be—the stock turns into real money, usually set up as a donor-directed fund.
We did this because we believed that entrepreneurs from all walks of life deserve a chance to make their mark on the world. We held this as a core organizational value. It was something we felt deep in our gut and knew it couldn’t be ignored. That’s why we invested ourselves—and our capital—into a vision of a better world. To me, creating this better world comes down to more money and numbers, but I’ve found a simple equation that helps me determine how much to give back to feel meaningful.
As a man of faith, I’ve derived this formula primarily from the Bible. It’s related to the rule of tithing—giving 10 percent of your income to the church, those in need or however you define “the greater good.” This rule applies just the same to our time and energy as it does to our money. If I can give 10 percent of my time to good causes, I’m living a life that feels fulfilling and enriching.
But I don’t think this practice is just a personal one. In fact, I believe it’s imperative in creating a successful and goal-oriented organization. A consistent ethic of supporting the communities in which your company does business not only benefits you but it also strengthens and deepens the connections within your organizations. If every company encouraged its employees to give 10 percent of their time to a cause they care about, imagine the difference it could make in our communities and our society. And in the lives of your employees too.
Working for a common good is a great way to unite employees of disparate disciplines. It promotes even stronger cooperation in work matters, which, in turn, hastens company growth, making that preliquidity equity we’ve pledged that much closer to becoming liquid one day. This is just one approach corporations can take in engaging in philanthropy, the expectation of which is only—and in my opinion, rightly—increasing within the general public. It’s no longer enough to say your company cares. You have to walk the talk.